What a kind and encouraging letter the apostle Paul wrote to the new believers in Thessalonica! He was so relieved that they were alive and well, and that they were staying strong in the Lord Jesus. The reality was that they were being persecuted for their faith. It seems that some had died. Paul reassured them and comforted them in their grief. He wrote, ‘But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
He gave them such wise advice about relationships within the Christian community of believers. ‘We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15).
As I’ve prayed with leaders, who’ve given up ministry, or returned from the mission field in a discouraged state, I’ve noticed how often Satan attacks relationships in Christian teams. It isn’t the unbelievers who cause pain by rejecting them. It’s their fellow believers who criticise and find fault. It’s the lack of love and support from brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Paul went on to give them the great secret of a victorious Christian life, ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This was the tried and tested way he’d overcome all his troubles in times of great hardship and suffering. He knew from personal experience how to walk in the Spirit, be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and protect his heart from self-pity or bitterness. What an amazing example he gave us after he and Silas were beaten with rods and thrown into prison! That night he was singing joyful praise songs and worshipping the Lord - right there, in chains (Acts 16).
And in addition to that, he advised them to be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We can expect that the Lord will speak to us, but we are to exercise discernment, so that we don’t receive false prophecy. ‘Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
Finally, Paul prayed for the Thessalonians to grow in holiness and to keep on getting closer and closer to the Lord. ‘Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He was confident that God would answer this prayer, saying, ‘He will surely do it’.
Prayer: Thank You, Father God, for this letter of Paul, written to encourage me to go on growing in faith. It helps me to remember Your will for my life, and how You want me to respect and love all my brothers and sisters in Your big family. Thank You that You’ll help me to be holy in my spirit, soul and body, and ready for when Jesus comes again. Amen.
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